Over a cuppa yesterday afternoon, a friend quipped that membership was really all about ownership. And I thought, 'yes, she's right.' However, she had meant the quip negatively, whereas I was looking at it as a positive thing. Wonderful thing the English language!
Her argument is that some members think they own the church and, more particularly, its ministers. She's right, of course. Many Baptists do think membership and church meetings are a way of exercising power and ensuring that the church and its ministers do exactly what they want - hence giving them ownership over the church. And this is what leads many people to throw their hands up in horror and exclaim their antipathy to church meetings and membership in all their forms.
My immediate thought when she said it was that ownership is a key word in this discussion about belonging and membership. How do we create a sense of 'ownership' among those who belong to our churches? Of what does such 'ownership' consist? It seems to me that people express their belonging to an organisation by feeling that in some way they own its programme - ownership often being expressed in a willingness to fund the programme.
So, where does this word fit in our thinking about membership?